The Great Las Vegas Pancake

OK, there isn’t one. But Seven food critic Max Jacobson manages to find a few worth eating.

Some people call me a food snob, and I’m not. But I am a pancake snob.

So I don’t want to pay for a breakfast that tastes like mud and corn syrup. Maybe you feel differently, but as far as I’m concerned, take all the pancakes at IHOP, Denny’s, Hash House A Go Go and the rest of the frauds (they know who they are) and dump them in the sink.

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Last fall, as the leaves where turning, I made a pilgrimage to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, N.H., which I consider the best pancake house in America. I’m not alone: When I went there at 7 a.m., there was an hour wait for tables.

Polly’s is a rustic shack that dispenses batter from individual silos, and the varieties include buttermilk, oatmeal, buckwheat and seven-grain. There is a tray of pure maple products—such as granulated sugar, maple cream and dark amber maple syrup—on every table. Mix-ins can be ordered as well, such as fresh blueberries, walnuts or chocolate chips.

To call Polly’s pancakes “glorious” would be an understatement. The only problem is that it’s about 3,000 miles away, not to mention the fact that Polly’s doors don’t reopen for the season until April 15.

Still, there is hope in Las Vegas. The wonderful Bouchon serves French toast and waffles, but no pancakes. Maybe we can convince celebrated owner Thomas Keller to add them.

Until then, there’s the Maple Tree (6000 W. Spring Mountain Road), which offers several types of delicious maple products with their pancakes. They aren’t bad, but they’re made from restaurant supply house batter. Pancakes at the Blueberry Hill chain are a shade better, but they aren’t terribly special. And there is always the option to buy good mixes (such as Bob’s Red Mill), real maple syrup at the supermarket, and fire up the griddle yourself.

To my palate, the only real game in town is the Original Pancake House. A national chain that started in pancake-mad Oregon during the 1950s, this franchise stands up to almost any in the country. The giant apple pancake, baked to a crunch with a sugary, sloppy, caramelized apple topping, is a revelation.

My wife always orders the Dutch Baby, a smaller version of a German pancake—egg rich and served hot from the oven. It curls and blackens around the edges, with a puffy texture and a subtle sour tang in every bite.

The smartest thing about ordering the Dutch Baby—which is perfectly complemented by wedges of fresh lemon and a side dish of confectioner’s sugar—is that you don’t need maple syrup for it. Why is that a good thing? Because the management has been steadfast in its refusal to offer real maple syrup. In fact, they don’t even allow you to bring it in.

Nonetheless, when I order my favorite pancake here—the ’49er flapjack, which is thin, crepe-like and totally delicious—I sneak in a flask filled with dark amber, Grade B Vermont maple syrup. In 10 years in Las Vegas, I have only been thrown out once.

The Original Pancake House has four locations: 4170 S. Fort Apache Road, 433-5800; 4833 W. Charleston Blvd., 259-7755; in Aliante Station, 657-2500; and in Green Valley Ranch, 614-7200.

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